Well, after being packed and ready to go for a month, I sit on the day arizonac (ray) is going to be here, and pace the floor in excitement of finally meeting my friend with whom I have chatted so long. Soon he pulls into the driveway after getting lost on the one and only  street we have in this small town. I go outside and sure enough it's him!! I shake his hand and invite him inside to introduce him around. We fill our coffee cups and sit and talk. This man is just like he is on chat, polite, funny and most of all "himself"! Ray doesn't have to pretend he is anything else. He is a great guy. We chatted and chatted for a long time then I brought out the famous SHOE BOX and he opened it and played in old coins for a long time. Az is a prospector not so much a detectorist, but he does do both. That's the reason for this trip, not just to learn from him about gold hunting but also to meet more of my friends who will be there. Well, we finally wear down and call it a night. He had driven over 500 miles so I knew he was tired. Next morning we toss stuff in and head out to the state of Arizona. It's a long drive but I enjoyed it chatting still with Az and learning more about him.

Late that night we arrive at his home in Tucson, where, waiting for us, is his wife, MountainMamma. Now folks I will tell you this:  If you want to feel like you're family this is the place to go! I felt at home the minute I got there. We sat out on the deck of their house and sipped coffee and talked of the ride down. I was telling Ma how we stopped to eat at a local casino and I had used five nickles in a slot machine and won 250 nickles back. Well, with fire in my eyes, I was ready to gamble for a week!!!! Well, I was till Arizonac grabbed me by my ear and said "NO BOY!! we're out of here while your ahead." We finally wore down and had to hit the sack for the big day coming up. We woke the next morning and MA had breakfast going and filled us up for the ride.

We arrived in Mesa where they had the GPAA gold show is going on. There I met a gentleman named Angus. Now folks, this is a prospector who has been around a while. We helped unload his Camel gold packs, then set up his stand for the show. I walked around meeting everyone there who set up booths and learned a lot from each about what they sold there.

Later in the evening Susan (az),
another friend from chat, was due there. I sat outside puffing a smoke, when up comes this van creeping along like should I stop or not? I figure what the heck and show some leg (that always gets them to stop). After a big hug and a howdy do I've now met two more people from our little chat room we meet in. Susan was supposed to work that night but had been allowed a night off so off to Kingman, Arizona we went. I think everyone knows I like gold because they sure are nice about getting me to places to find it. After a night of tossing and turning in the van seat, it was daybreak and time to find a big nugget, but first i needed food. Ya know fat men run out of gas if they don't eat. So we made some omelets and then fired up the detectors. Needless to say, like most gold areas, we found lots of trash and wire and foil and cans. I did find one old timers hand made chisel, so it wasn't a full bust on finds. By then it was time to head back to the gold show.

I was really anxious now because I knew my amigo, (Jesse) from alaska, Shar and eljay would be there. I went inside and there were so many people at the gold show I thought I would never find them, but low and behold, there at the end of the first row was my amigo pacing around and talking up a storm to everyone around. I slowly walked up and stood behind this cute lady I knew had to be Shar. She turned around and I got the big hug I had wanted so long, then a big handshake from my amigo. Then Jesse says, "This is Eljay," and points to this big fellow and right there.  I knew I would be nice to him because he could probably stuff me in a mason jar had he wanted to. I felt good now that everyone was there. We spent the day roaming the show and talking and talking. Everyone was great! I felt like I had missed a lot not being around them sooner in life. They are a great bunch!

As the gold show was coming to a close, we started to help Angus and Az load what was left of the camel backpack units that didn't sell. I got into the trailer and eljay handed me the units. I had the trailer half full and went inside to see what else was to go out. Then head back out to close up the trailer. Then and there I knew i was in the big city. GASP!!!!!! Someone stole all the backpack gold units!!!! I began climbing up on stuff looking all around hoping to see them in the back of a pickup or something so I could catch them. I just knew Angus would own me the rest of my life for loosing his stuff. After three heart attacks and almost in tears, Shar cracks a huge smile. Right then and there I knew she and Susan and eljay had pulled an Alan and got me good. They had removed the units and stacked them in front of the trailer. I informed them that pay backs are hell!!! That night we went back to Tucson to arizonac's to spend the night and head off to the claim the next day. There the rest met MA and Alma an elderly lady they tend. It was like a big happy family reunion there.

We all got some sleep that night but not much since no one wanted to quit talking and the next morning Ma made us cinnamon rolls and coffee. Then off we were to the claim. We stopped along the way to get arizonac's jeep at a storage close to where his claim is. We arrive at the area and he says, "Park the pickup here Alan you can't take it down in there." I see why he said that now, as most mules would laugh at going down the road he had. After a few blow outs on the tires and arms and faces scratched from being slapped by the brush on the way down, we arrive at our destination. It's wonderful there!

We get everything unloaded and start to set up camp. Only took most of us a couple seconds to put up our tiny cardboard boxes we sleep in. But then Shar pulls out this three story mansion she called a tent.
We kept wondering how many kin folks she had coming in to have brought something the size of that. Then she let me know she needed a tent that big to keep her makeup in. I didn't give her a lot of static because this lady can hit hard. At the gold show she SMACKED me so hard already that everyone there in Phoenix heard it. First day, we didn't do much other than getting camp ready and talking around the campfire. I built a good sized fire so everyone within a hundred miles knew we were there. As Jesse called it, "our White Man Fire!" Late at night it gets pretty cold there in the dessert so we all headed to our tents. Wasn't long till I heard the biggest damn bear I have ever heard in my life. It was awful!!!! Sounded like a freight train coming through. Then I heard Shar laughing and she said,  'That's Jesse snoring." Now I see why he lives in Alaska. After all, we do have noise limit laws in the lower states. After tossing and turning and not getting a bit of sleep I got up to make a fire and coffee. Wasn't but a few till Shar smelled the coffee and here she came with makeup kit and coffee cup in hand. I still to this day don't know why she needed the makeup. After sitting there watching her put it on, I couldn't tell any difference. She was just as cute without it. Later everyone else pileed out of their tents and were all trying to plot the day. Arizonac pointed around telling us where everything was and letting us know the do's and don'ts of the claim. Then everyone took off and began to explore. The week was filled with exploring caves and detecting.

If there was an Eden in the world, I think it was there. We would walk and climb by day and set and chat by night. We all learned a lot from each other. The first finds were made by Shar. We had moved a boulder and dug out to hit bedrock in the old river bed. They did most of the work on that hole. I hadn't felt up to par those first few days.

Jesse and Shar and myself were cleaning out the hole and as we moved rocks Shar would detect. Then about the time we were getting tired eating dirt and wearing down Shar screams!!! She throws Jesse's Goldmaster across the rocks and pusheed Jesse and me out of the way. First thing I thought was, "Oh hell, she saw a snake." But she dove down at the ground and there pulled up a nice little nugget. I remember how it is having gold fever and this lady now was afflicted bad. Her green eyes lit up like candles and she was shaking. Then just as we got relaxed and settled down, she plowed us over again! Another nugget!! It was getting close to dark by then, so we went back over to camp. We were sure proud of her finding those nuggets. I think that made the whole trip worth while. She is a prize in all ways. I am glad to be able to call her my friend. She made us laugh all the time. We were not allowed to get down or feel low or we knew the wrath of the SMACK would be upon our noggins. Arizonac left that night and went to town to spend the night with his family and pick up Laura the next morning at the airport. So we got some rest knowing Laura (WHITEFEATHER) would be coming in.

We heard the jeep way off in the distance coming down the trails. So Jesse and Eljay set out ahead. Then Shar and I trailed afterwards. Shar took off like a Gazzelle leaving me eating dirt. I came around the bend and there sat the jeep and no one around. I looked up and there were two large bamboo shoots sticking up in the ground facing the jeep. Then I heard Laura yell, "Alan did it!!!!!"  I had no clue what was going on, which for me happens a lot, mind you. Then once again I heard that Canadian laugh. Jesse, Eljay and Shar hid behind a tree, they had sprung a trap for arizonac and Laura.

It was nice to see Laura again. Big hugs all around and short chatter and we want to get to camp and relax. First thing as Laura gets out of the jeep, she rolls four rolls of duct tape at my feet, and says, "Now give me any troubles Alan, you will be naked, taped to a tree in the morning." If she knew I kind of liked that idea, she wouldn't have said it. But I knew not to mess with her she could turn me into a pretzel in 3.5 seconds. We spent the rest of that day chatting, talking about old times and others from chat. Then got a good night's rest.

The next day, I took out my little 22 pistol I carried and took it over to see if I could still hit a barn or not. I fired off a few rounds and Shar asked to try it next.

She shoots and is pretty damn good. So I know right then not to mess with her, either. She says, "Dang Alan, that sucker is loud. My ears hurt." Then Laura pulled out this Bazooka she carries. A .380 Waltham hand gun. Shar asks to try it to. Well, being the brave man I am, I got waaaaaaaaay back out of the way and got my camera. I heard "boom" and I snap a picture. She screams and we all laugh. I have never seen anyone fly so far back after firing a gun. I think I saw three geese fall out of the sky into the next canyon.  Jesse was looking at her hoping she would land on a cactus when she went back. Then Laura unloaded her tent. Now I thought Shar had a mansion. Laura has the white house!!! It was begining to look like tent city out there on the claim. I wish it was in a way, I wouldn't mind living there forever.

Meanwhile back at the campfire, Jesse pulled off his shoes and had a bee land on him. Arizonac had warned us the killer bees are down there. This bee landed on Jesse's sock and walked around slowly. Jesse went over this long story about how killer bees wont sting unless they have to because once they sting, they die. Well, I bet this bee wishes he had stung Jesse because about that time the bee took a whiff of his sock and rolled off his foot and landed on the ground. I busted out laughing!!!!!!! Attack of Jesse's killer socks! We both set with tears in our eyes from laughing so hard. Then this bee gets up and off it goes. Now I see why the grizzlies in Alasaka don't mess with my amigo. After another night of chatting by the fire and getting a good nights sleep we were off exploring. We spent most of that morning looking and learning. But by then knew we had to head back to camp and be out of the canyon before dark. After eating canned stew and spam for a week we were ready to go to town again. We all hated leaving but knew our time was at end. So back to Tucson we went.

That night Jesse took us all out for a steak. He has this one place he loves that sells Cowgirls!!!! The name of the steak, of course. After all of us showering and leaving 85 lbs of dirt in az's shower we were off for a real meal. We got there and I, being a starving man who was already eating his napkin looked around at other people's plates and saw real fast the cowgirl was to small. I ordered the cowboy, a big thick juicy steak. Soon the food arrived at the table. Now folks, after a week of nothing but spam and stew you don't stick your hand on the table or someone's gonna have fork stuck in it and your fingers in their mouth. Everyone kept laughing and I kept gnawing away at my steak and beans. I didn't realize I was moaning like a elephant in heat. But that was one dang fine meal!!!. After the meal we went back to arizonac's. I could let this story go on and on and fill in fine details of all aspects but I am saving that for some other time. The next day was the hardest for me. That's when we had to start saying goodbye to some. I won't dwell on that part. I will just say, I wish we never had to say goodbyes!!!! This isn't the end of the story. I don't think any of us will ever let it end. I would just like to say thank you to all who were there. You made me a part of the family and I loved every moment I had with you there. You're all special people in every way. A part of you each lies within me now. Until the next big trip I miss you all!!!

The Arizona Wild Bunch will ride again!